The St.George Queensland Reds will turn their attention to the Stormers after commencing their two-game South African campaign with a 27-13 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
Two tries to Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl gave the Cheetahs an 18-6 advantage at halftime and despite the Reds continued attacking intent they failed to convert pressure into points with poor ball security ruining any chances of a second half comeback.
The Reds did cross the line on five occasions although the TMO ruled against the Queenslanders on four of those occasions with the Reds twice held-up, an obstruction penalty early in the match and a forward pass ruled against flyhalf Quade Cooper.
Eight points through the boot of Cooper and a late try to Ben Lucas was their only reward on an evening where the Cheetahs snapped a three-game losing streak to the Reds dating back to 2010.
The Reds now have a week to regroup before they take on South Africa’s Stormers in Cape Town and will be determined to replicate the success of their last visit to Newlands Stadium 2011, where Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie’s men triumphed 19-6.
Despite the loss, only the Reds third of the season, they continue to sit just marginally behind Australian Conference leaders the ACT Brumbies by two competition points after the ACT-based province lost only hours earlier to the NSW Waratahs.
The result against the Cheetahs also puts to an end the opportunity to finish the 2013 season unbeaten against international opposition after the Reds entered the match with six wins and no losses, including a clean sweep of New Zealand opponents.
Reds flyer Rod Davies appeared to have gotten the Reds off to the perfect start when he touched down in just the second minute although a TMO-ruled obstruction in the lead-up shifted the momentum and allowed van Zyl to score the first of his two opening half tries following a charged down clearing kick.
Early linebreaks to Davies, fullback Luke Morahan and centre Chris Feauai-Sautia allowed the Reds to dominate possession and territory but they were unable to capitalise and soon found themselves trailing 15-6 when a well worked lineout play saw van Zyl cross for his second five-pointer.
Penalty goals on either side of halftime extended the Cheetahs but the Reds continued to fight and almost narrowed the margin within five minutes of the break – first Genia being held-up directly under the posts and then a forward pass ruled against Cooper following a well-constructed scrum play.
Chasing the scoreboard the Reds continued to apply pressure inside the Cheetahs 22-metre line however the home side were more clinical with their opportunities to continue their strong 2013 campaign and record their eighth win of the season.
Following their tour of South Africa, the Reds will return to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 1 June to take on the Melbourne Rebels.
Cheetahs 27 (2 Piet van Zyl tries, Elgar Watts con, 5 pens) def St.George Queensland Reds 13 (Ben Lucas try; Quade Cooper con, 2 pens)